Vaylen Kirtley is a household name in South African sports broadcasting. A sports anchor on SABC 2’s popular breakfast show Morning Live, she also anchors the Women in Sport programme on SABC and is SABC Sport’s first choice presenter for special events.
gsport first featured Kirtley back in 2007, and already then at the age of 20, she was regarded as a veteran in the field, having started off on TV when she was still in high school.
In our latest interview, Kirtley reflects on how it all began: “I remember the excitement of the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 1996
AFCON tournament. I don’t remember exactly what happened as I was under 10, but I remember the feeling.
“The euphoria that is so infectious. I started running in primary school, and even used to be cricket scorer, I don’t ever remember sport not being a part of my life, and for that I think I am very privileged.
“I started doing a junior sports programme (Sportsbuzz) thanks to Cynthia Tshaka, who introduced me to Melinda Lombard, then the producer of the show. It was a product of then “Topsport” – now SABC Sport, and I grew from there.”
Kirtley has already enjoyed many highlights, and with nearly 10 years of experience in the industry, this sports media all-rounder has laid a solid foundation for what looks set to be a long and fruitful career.
“I have had so many highlights … truly. Hosting the Paralympic Games 2012 and Comrades Marathon, starting a sports show on Yfm- “Yired on Sport”. Hosting the Met and July. Reporting from the Olympic Games. Working on Morning Live and the amazing people I have interviewed on the show.”
Kirtley says she has always loved being active and healthy, it’s an area that she has always had an interest in. In 2010, Kirtley attempted the grueling Comrades Marathon, and successfully finished the race, prompting her to go for back-to-back medals the following year.
Writing about her experience shortly after her second effort in 2011, Kirtley reflected: “I ran for my back to back medal at the (2011) Comrades Marathon. I completed the race with 13 minutes to spare in 2010, so the challenge of the Up run had me so nervous the night before, I could hardly sleep.
“Unless you have started the race, the feeling is hard to explain, and the amount of support at the beginning at 5:30am sets the tone for the race; one of support, fun and friendship. I enjoyed all that this year and achieved my back to back, bettering my time by an hour and 28 minutes.”
As if her plate is not full, Kirtley is currently completing her honours in Journalism, and she is also a doting mom. “My daughter is my inspiration and my life would be empty without her.”
Kirtley says the keys to her success are hard work, passion and the amazing people in her life who support her. “My mom, who helps me juggle my life, and the people who I admire and who have inspired me. The team on Morning Live, the producers I have worked with, and some amazing individuals who I have interviewed.”
It hasn’t always been easy. “I try my utmost to look at every challenge as an opportunity to grow. There have been tough times, and the biggest difficulty is finding the best way to deal with it.”
Kirtley’s advice to up and coming sports broadcasters is to read and stay positive, adding that it takes a lot of dedication. As for raising the profile of women’s sport, Kirtley believes Corporate South Africa, who have women as their main consumers need to come to the party.
“Also, women need to support one another. We, as women, often bring other ladies down and we need to do more celebrating of our fellow gender.
When she is not in work mode, Kirtley enjoys keeping up with her daughter and running. She also loves theatre and music. “When I get it right, I may market it and become very rich. Haha! It’s planning and keeping focused.”